Day Party/Gallery Lombardi Lounge
So I broke the cardinal rule of the rock critic's SXSW experience: When there are two bands playing two different day parties at the same time, never leave the party you are at for the other, because the band playing that other shindig is inevitably running late. It is because I displayed such wanton disregard for that rule that I caught all of one song of Neko Case's set -- "Bowling Green" -- at the Bloodshot annual Yard Dog soiree. In my own defense, I left the Bloodshot goings-on to guard against missing Beulah (say "Bueller"-- "anyone, anyone") at the Listen.com
party down on Sixth Street, where Janeane Garofalo wasn't. In retrospect, I forgive myself, because Beulah was clearly the highlight of the day -- if not the conference to this point. Not only were there enough black shirts and moppy-messy haircuts to attract the "Royal We" herself, but enough pop Nirvana to keep a Seattle's worth of junkies fixed for damn near an eternity. The Bay Area outfit takes five minutes' worth of pure pop celebration and crams it into a four-minute space. Whereas Gomez (Beulah's current touring partners) are like a British version of an American jam band, Beulah is an American version of a British pop band -- one with the entire VU catalog buried in their record collections, that is. And for a pop band, boy did they rock. And that brings us to Red Delicious, precisely because that's what they utterly failed to do. The Pasadena quintet is doing impressive numbers on the Internet with literally thousands of people downloading their material, and they are mainstays on many of the daily-download rankings, but Red Delicious is neither red nor delicious -- okay, the female vocalist's hair is dyed red, but that's about as close as it gets. She spent most of the set working the nonexistent fans in the front row as opposed to playing to the actual audience. It wasn't until the band gave away T-shirts and CDs that the small crowd in the Gallery Lombardi Lounge bum-rushed the stage. And once the goodies were gone, they all politely retreated to sanitized quarters in the middle of the club. It's not a good sign when nobody is willing to stand up front to actually watch you, but only care when you give stuff away. That might also explain the band's popularity on the broadband wires: Their stuff is free for the downloading, so people are taking it. As for the music itself, you could call it Garbage and be right on two counts.